Earlier today we made the trip to Grand Rapids to make the annual drop off for Siciliano’s home brew contest. This time around I entered the Irish Rye. I may have timed it right even, next month when I do my drop off for the Arbor Brewing Company contest, I should be able to pick up my score sheets from this contest.
While we were there I picked up a bottle of Stone’s Oak Aged Bastard. Arrogant Bastard is on my favorites list, so I am anxious to see how it is with a bit of oak.
When we head up to GR to do drop offs I like to plan the trip around stopping at one of the Grand Rapids Breweries or a decent pub. It makes the hour long trip a bit more productive. This time around we visited Brewery Vivant.
When you first look at the façade of the building you do not feel like you will be heading into a place that focuses on Belgian and French styled food and beer. But when you step inside you get the feeling that you have entered into a Monastic common room. The center of the dining area is nothing but communal picnic tables. The booth we sat in was designed to hold at least 8 people, as were the other booths on this side of the restaurant. Stained glass over the entranceway and behind the bar added to the effect of being in a holy place. It really did seem fitting that we chose to visit the day before Easter.
As far as the food goes, we ordered off their lunch menu. And is normal for us, we like to share (makes it easier to sample different items without having to order a bunch of stuff). We split the burger and the Monte Cristo. The better of the two was the Monte Cristo. At first we were thinking its French toast stuffed with ham and cheese (super sweet maybe even overly sweet) and then “Whap” you get smacked in the taste buds with the Dijon mustard. I was floored at how much the mustard really made this sandwich. I didn’t even care that I had to eat it with a fork (picking it up and eating it like a sandwich just seemed so wrong).
And now for the important part … the beer. Jo had a full glass of the blueberry-apple cider. It threw me off a little that their ciders are still. I prefer at least a little sparkle in my cider. To me it felt like I was drinking a very light bodied wine. I think carbonation would have enhanced the mouthfeel much better. The flavor itself though was quite nice. The berry flavor enhanced the sweetness of the apple nicely.
In order to get as much sampling done as I could I ended up getting the Cambier flight. With this flight you get to pick 4 different samples from their current beer list including the ciders. I will start by saying I like how they showcase their samples. They use a wooden board to hold the cups (not uncommon) but instead of mini pint glasses they use mini snifter (4oz pours) style glasses. This doesn’t work as well to hold the foam of the samples but it does help to hold in the aromas while you work your way through.
The apple cider wasn’t really a stand out to me. It wasn’t bad but I think it lost too much without the carbonation to give it some body.
Farm hand: French Style Farmhouse Ale… 5.5% The flavor I initially picked up from this beer reminded me of plain Cap’n Crunch cereal. It was light, it was refreshing, but after the lack luster cider I was hoping for something a bit more complex. Mind you, I would gladly drink copious amounts of this one on a hot summer day.
Vivant Tripel… 9.25% This was more like what I was looking for. Bubblegum in the nose, pepper and earthiness in the initial flavor. As I drank it I began to pick up a slight chocolate hint. This one was nicely complex but I felt it still held a touch more residual sweetness than I think it should have. In the end I was quite happy with it. I think I pretty much finished it before I moved on to the next sample.
Belgian Black ale… 5.5% This was my favorite of the lot. Chocolate and Coffee in the nose. I want to say that the flavor reminded me of French roast coffee. They offered it pulled from a normal tap and also from a nitro tap. I chose the nitro but in the end I think the sample glass made the nitro negligible. I think will need to try this one again in a standard pour and see how it goes.
And now its time to find a pint …